Eusebio was a great footballer. There you have it. I have used a word I believe gets used way too often.
Today you only need to play three good games for some commentators or writers to call you “great.”
The Portugal and Benfica striker truly way a great player. Watching World Cups on television as an 8 and 12 year old, you got to know which players were special. Which made a difference to their side.
Imagine this scenario you young ones. Imagine you had never had the chance to see Messi or Ronaldo play football. Them out of the blue, you saw them play in a World Cup. How would you react?
You would be drooling. Well, in 1966, I drooled at Eusebio. In 1970 I sat aghast watching Pele and that Brazil team. The very best footballing side of my lifetime.Like Eusebio, neither Messi or Ronaldo can win a World Cup for their respective countries on their own. But, as was the case with Eusebio, that should not reduce our appreciation of their skills.
Pele was the greatest. No question. Those of you who were born at a time when Maradona was strutting his stuff will likely think he was. But, for me, Maradona was not fit to lace the boots of Pele.
In the 60’s it was rare to see a team like Benfica play on UK television. I shall always recall the 1968 European Cup final against Manchester United. While the beauty of Best, the kid, Kidd and classy Charlton took all the plaudits for winners Manchester United, the performance of Eusebio should not be forgotten.
In 1996 I interviewed Man Utd goalkeeper Alex Stepney about Eusebio and that memorable moment when Eusebio congratulated him on a save. I shall try and dig out that interview, which I have on VHS.
The facts state that Eusebio, aka ‘the Black Panther’, was the top goalscorer in the 1966 World Cup with nine goals. He scored four times in the game against North Korea.
He scored 41 goals in 64 games for Portugal. But he was not Portuguese. He was African.Eusebio da Silva Ferreira was born in Mozambique.
In all, he played 745 professional matches and scored 733 goals. If that’s not great, I don’t know what is.
With Benfica he won ten league titles and five domestic cups during his 15 years of loyal service to the club. And he won the European Cup in 1962.
The Portuguese manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, said: “I think he is immortal. We all know what he meant for football and especially for Portuguese football.
“He was not only a great inspiration but also an important figure in upholding the values, principles and feelings of football, even after finishing his career.”As an 8 year old, he was my favourite non English player at the 1966 World Cup. And my favourite Panini sticker!
I liked Eusebio not just for his dribbling skills, ball control and electric pace.
I liked Eusebio because he played football with a smile on his face.
A quality many a modern day footballer could do with acquiring.